Monday, March 19, 2018

March Interview in Billiard Buzz Mag is Out

I mentioned at the beginning of last year that I am now a contributor to the online billiard magazine, Billiard Buzz

My column is dedicated to interviewing people.

It's been one of my top 3 joys lately in the pool arena!  I just love conducting the interviews and getting to know others while I get to share their stories with you all.  We are so blessed we get the opportunity to learn from each other :)

I usually post the interviews all on one page each month, which one can get to from the top tab of my blog.  It's labeled, "Billiard Buzz Columns."

Looks like this, in case it's not obvious (see second tab):

Well, the March edition of Billiard Buzz is out and it's quite frankly too impactful for me NOT to give it a separate, dedicated blog entry.  This months interview is THE most moving interview I have conducted.  As the editor of Billiard Buzz (Mike Howerton) stated, "We dare you to keep dry eyes while reading Melinda Bailey's interview with Charlie Smith."

I want to thank Charlie for agreeing to let me delve into his humor, learn more about his loving wife Nancy, and share boldly the many tough times they have been through. You will be surprised, I promise.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Get Distracted When Reading

I mentioned in early March that Mike Howerton interrogated me on the new American Billiard Radio broadcast show.

Interrogated, inquisitioned, whatever.

If you don't have time to listen to the podcast (like I don't lol), I thought I'd share a little from that broadcast.  Why?  Well, because Mike asked me questions I normally don't get asked and consequently hadn't thought of to share.  I know what you're thinking, damn she shares a lot already!  But, Mike really probed me (ahem, verbally) and I realized the other night when I couldn't go back to sleep, that some of the answers I've never written about in my blog.  Blasphemy, I know!  So, I'm going to resolve that today for you.  Why?  Well, my name does start with "Me" and so it makes sense to talk about myself, right?  (I know, lame excuse).

One of the things he found fascinating (my word, not his) was that I try to blog 10-15 times a month.  Ask anyone, that's a lot!  He then was intrigued:  how do I come up with so many things to write about?  And I shared this tidbit I hadn't shared with anyone before:

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I share articles from magazine (online or in print) about things that I relate to pool.  However, it's not just online articles or magazines, it's anything I read.  And that kinda gets in the way of me getting through a book. 

For instance, I tried in January to read the recommended golf book, "A Good Walk Spoiled" and I couldn't concentrate!  By the 4th page I had around 5 things I could blog about that I could relate to pool that I read in the book!   Gosh, I get so distracted when I read books.  SO many things cross my mind, "Oh, I could write about that" or "Oh, yea, that reminds of this I could write about."  Even leadership books/articles from work - I will read a few pages and start using my highlighter like I'm on crack:  I underline or highlight so many things!  But, the highlighted sentences aren't for me to remember something that would be helpful at work, noooo, they are about things I want to write about in my blog!

Yes, seriously.

The other thing I shared with Mike (and the fans who listen to the podcast) is that I do not have Internet at home.  So, that means all the blog posts, all the interviews, and all the broadcasts are done from my work office after work hours.  Eeek, that may imply I have no social life, lol, but not having Internet at home is the reality I live in.  The homeowners have recently begun the process of a petition to get Internet in our area, but it's been this way for a very long time and I am used to it.  But, it's a little fact of the Melinda Bailey life lol.

I'll share more things like this in the future.  Strap your boots on!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Be the Example

I mentioned the other day I am giving lessons to a new client.  She is good player and it's a joy to see her kick my butt!  

She is very similar to my other main client and is a quick learner, so I appreciate that a lot, lol.  Further, she also asks for clarification of my shot selections or questions a suggestion, which is really cool to be able to provide reasoning and further details of the whys.

The one area she needs to work on, which we talked about, is she tends to poke at the ball.  I don't see it all the time, just off and on, but if she could stay down and follow through more and consistently, she would be even more of a force to be reckoned with.

We talked about some tips to help her follow through more often, but following through and staying down is really something one has to figure out on their own what is the best thing to help them accomplish that.  I explained that staying down and following through on tough shots is really a beautiful feeling.  Yes, a feeling.  It truly is.  No way for me to explain it except when you have that smooth stroke, taking your time, following through, it feels, well, beautiful.

So, I find myself in a lucky situation!  It took me over 20 years to finally stay down and follow through and feel that beautiful smooth stroke, but I can always use reminders :).  So when her and I spar, I tend to exaggerate staying down and following through.  I do this so she can see for 3 straight hours someone consistently and steadily staying down, taking their time, and following through well.  I have proudly shared that watching those EXACT things for a few years on the Omega Tour on Sundays from the top players elevated my game because I started to emulate them and the effectiveness of staying down so well.

I want the same for her. 

It also proves that when staying down well, I make more of my shots.  (weird coincidence, huh?)  So, while I am staying down longer on my shots to help her, it is also hugely helping me re-instill this key component of my game.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

That One Player We Can't Beat - Nancy

When you play on a tour or often in weekly tournaments, you find yourself always running into Nancy.

Who is Nancy?  Well, Nancy is the generic name my friends and I gave to a player who always beat us.  ALWAYS.  We thought we were better than Nancy, but she still would beat us.  It was VERY frustrating!

Everyone's Nancy is different for each of us.  And Nancy isn't the top player on the tour or someone who is well above our level - she is just an average player we think we are better than.  But for whatever reason, she always freaking beats us!

I remember being at a tournament in Austin and one of my friends left the table, then came back and said, "Dammit."  I asked, "What?"  She said, "I have to play Nancy next!"  (again, the players name wasn't Nancy, it was the generic name we gave to each of our own nemesis's)  I asked her, "Why did you even check the chart, you know you aren't suppose to look ahead."  "I know," she replied, "But I was curious."

I would remind my friend to play the table, not the opponent, but let's face it - we can do that all day long but this Nancy person will still beat us.  Damn you, Nancy!

And Nancy never even knew she was a nemesis.  She was just enjoying the tournament and playing pool.

Several years would go by and our game would sharply improve and eventually we would beat Nancy!  Highlight of any tournament is when one would finally beat her.  The devil herself who always seemed to somehow beat us - except that day!  And then we'd beat Nancy again.  And eventually, some of us didn't have a Nancy anymore.  We improved.  We conquered.  We kicked Nancy's butt!

But why couldn't we beat each of our Nancy's?  We knew we were better than her, had better finishes (if we didn't run into her lol) and worked on our game more.  Normally, anyone with a Nancy is because we have a mental block of some sort with certain players.  And it normally happens by accident.  We don't go through our pool journey trying to find our Nancy.  We just happen to keep getting beat by the same player for a long time.  Until we finally don't!  And then she's gone.  No more Nancy.

But what if Nancy is a person you gamble with?  A friend of mine reached out to me about his Nancy.  And wondered, "Since I can't beat the guy, should I continue to gamble with him?" 

To be honest, the guy had TWO Nancy's he was asking about.  Poor fella.  Hell, one Nancy is enough!

Here's the difference, in leagues our tournaments, you have no choice to play your Nancy.  The bracket Gods set it up that way.  But when you gamble, you have the choice to play Nancy or not.  So, what should you do?

Here is my take on his question if he should keep playing his Nancy or not:  My friend had two Nancy's that he thought he should beat.  One was a tough, dug-deep kinda gambler who knew a lot about the game.  The other was just an average player.  My friend kept getting beat by both of them, even though he felt he had the advantage.  My opinion was there is no reason to play the average player.  What can you gain?  Broader shoulders if you beat him?  That's about it.  They weren't gambling for enough to even brag if he beat the guy.  The real gambler on the other hand, his other Nancy, my friend could learn a TON from him.  The guy has been gambling for decades, and really knows the game well.  I suggested to keep playing that Nancy, even though it will be tough.  But at least he'll be getting something out of the beatings lol.

Then he shared, "Well, when I play the better gambler and then lose, my confidence goes way down and then I play badly for days."

Well, that sealed it, "Then don't play him," I stated firmly.  No reason to get your confidence beat down imho.  There are a ton more guys he could be gambling with.

So, who is your Nancy?  And have you beat them yet?  If not, don't fret!  You will.  Just give yourself patience and time.  Nancy eventually is just a bump in the road.

P.S.  I have friend named Nancy and this is no relation to her at all.

Monday, March 5, 2018

What's on Your Happiness List?

I have a new client I am giving lessons to.  We have met a couple of times now to spar and talk about strategy.  We go to one of the local pool rooms (Rusty's Billiards in Arlington, Texas) where they have beautiful Diamond bar tables for us to play on.

Both times we have met up, of course there are players in there that I know.

Last month we practiced on the same weekend as the new DFW 9 Ball Tour was being held an hour away in Dallas.  Someone asked me, "Why aren't you there?"  Uh, why would I be there?  I don't run a Tour anymore and have no reason to drive an hour to be around smoke and drama.  Some others  asked, "Do you miss running it?" 

"NOPE, not one bit," I exclaimed smiling.

This past weekend was the same pattern.  About four players asked me how I was doing, do I miss running the tour, etc.  I would smile and say loudly, "Not at all!"

A few of the replies were, "You look good and stress-free.  I am glad you are happy."

It was a nice reaction for me to hear.  I think most of the players are finally accepting I really don't miss running the tour.  They are also seeing on my face and in my body language how happier I am from the lack of stress and drama and all the issues I had to deal with.

Sure, I miss seeing some of my friends, but I don't miss much else lol.  Sounds rude and selfish, but it's okay to be honest.  It was a lot of work and energy mentally and physically running the tour and took a lot of time.  The lack of stress, the more restful nights, and the happiness it brings my soul to be away from drama and long days in a smoke-filled pool room is something I am very thankful to finally have had the strength to walk away from.

I am proud to have been a stepping stone for the new tour and over the moon with excitement there is a still an avenue for players to play in the area (the new DFW 9 Ball Tour).  But I am also thankful to be away from it now.

Happiness is important in life.  How many books and articles and therapists have worked so hard to try and convince us we should make changes about things in our lives that would create more happiness for ourselves.  We nod in agreement, maybe raise our fists with a "YES!" movement, and we might even make a list of the things we want to do to help our happiness.  But then we never do anything to move us to a point to check off things from the all-important list we thought was so enlightening.

I was VERY happy running the Omega Tour for numerous years.  But once I became unhappy, I knew in my heart I needed to make a change.  It was an agonizing 6 month decision, and I cried just giving the announcement, that's how tough of a decision it was.  But now that I no longer run the tour, I have noticed I have become happier.  Did I know that would happen?  NOT AT ALL.  No idea.

What is on your list that you could do that would make you happier, provide less stress, etc?  Life is short, peeps.

Friday, March 2, 2018

American Billiard Radio Continuing

As I sadly wrote about in January, David Bond passed away.  He was the DJ and breath behind  American Billiard Radio.

Mike Howerton of AZBilliards and I decided to try and keep Dave's dream alive and so Mike is leading the podcasts now, just not weekly as Dave could do, and I have agreed to still be a regular contributor.

Mike and I talked last night and the podcast is located here.  I felt like I was in an inquisition!  But seriously, he asked great questions that I enjoyed answering (and of course I talked about a couple of recent blog articles).  We also talked about how Dave will be missed and his unexpected passing.

RIP David.  I hope we are making you proud.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Looking At Other Options - The Danielson Series

I know that Danielson doesn't do well in a tournament when I have to ask him how it went.  Otherwise, he reaches out to me right away with excitement to share how he did in the tournament.  

This time, I had to reach out to him, so I already knew it probably wasn't going to be a "happy report."

I want to share something that many pool players go through.  Sometimes when we have a really good year, and yet still don't see that we can be one of the very top players of a tour (for example), we get discouraged.  Hear me out.  Basically, if we have several years of no success, you'd think that would make one want to quit.  Well, sometimes that does happen, but more so, the lack of success makes people WANT to play more and keep fighting.

Using me as an example, until I was successful in my mind and with my goals, then it was the right time to step away.  It was surprising to myself I was successful as I had become, but I was also realistic - I'm not pro material and my day job pays my bills anyway.  So, while other people questioned my decision to not compete anymore on regional tours, it made perfect sense to me.  Had I not had those few successful years, I know I'd still be competing to try to win that coveted title or be more successful in my game.  But because I had been successful, I was able to easily step away.  Further, it felt like a natural time to do so.

Danielson is at this crossroad.  After his latest tournament, I had to pry out of him what was going on so I could write this blog post.  You know, it's all about this blog lol.  And the Danielson fans needed an update on how he was doing!  And what he finally confided was he was glad he scratched hill-hill his last match so he could go home, and not come back on Sunday.  This was two-fold.  One because it was past 1am and it would be a short turn around and the other was he is not excited right now about playing.

Sure, he had a very successful last year, but he's also thinking realistically right now (or, he just had a bad tournament experience and is venting lol).  He shared in his grumpy message, "I'm wasting money.  And even with the success I had last year, it's evident it's not near enough to be in the top 10.  With the money it cost me this weekend, I could have played in that 10-ball event in Austin.  If I'm buying an experience, I could be getting more for my time and money."  

He continued to vent, "It's a lot of time to and from the tournament location and an average of $200 to go play these tournaments... and at my skill level I have little chance of getting half of that money back.  Even the top 6 at every stop last year the average Fargo was 640...I might be wasting my time."  

(Danielson's Fargo is around 565). 

I asked him about the cost, to break it down for us.  Here is how he figures around $200-$250 cost a stop:
  • $50 entry fee
  • 1/2 Calcutta ($20-$60)
  • Eating twice ($20)
  • Twice raffle tickets ($40)
  • Gas ($20)
  • Drinks ($50)
And that's if he doesn't buy anyone in the Calcutta but himself.

So, he's starting to recognize that playing on a tour may not be the best for him right now. 

However, he's STILL very much so eyeing other tournaments and events, and still enjoying the new team he's on.  So, he's not considering quitting competing at all, it's adjusting his options of where he wants to play that would be more advantageous either money-wise, experience-wise, or distance close to home.

I had to pry this information from Danielson, and the reason why is honestly because we feel kind of sad/embarrassed/ashamed of these thoughts.  But let me shout out to you now, IT's NORMAL!

So, if you are feeling the need to step away from a tour, or league, or "expected" event - realize that these are normal, natural feelings.  You aren't going far, though, rest assured.  Just maybe taking a different path to your next pool table.  :)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Golf Etiquette and Kicking Out Rude Fans

I read an interesting article the other day about a rude fan being ejected from a golf tournament!

Can you imagine if we did that during pool tournaments?  I can envision sweet claps of joy and calmness filling the room as they were escorted out.  Ahhhh.....

You can read the article yourself here, and it talks about a fan who was verbally shouting out that Justin Thomas' ball should hit the water or go in bunker.  Eventually, Justin asked that he be removed.  In the article it also quotes Justin and why he chose that action against the fan.

At first I read with delight, imagining being able to kick a rude fan out from a pool tournament, lol.  But what struck me MORE from the article was these two paragraphs, comments from the writer (Kevin Kaduk) of the piece:
If you’re one of those people who think this is the latest case of pro golfers being special little snowflakes, it’d be hard to argue with you. Professional athletes in other sports deal with much worse on a regular basis.
But if you’re a golfer or a golf fan, you know this isn’t something that’s tolerated on the golf course. Respect for other players is baked into the DNA of the game and going to a tournament usually isn’t about rooting for one player or another but appreciating the competition — and giving the golfers the space and atmosphere to achieve that.
Instead of being excited about this possible option to kick out a fan, lol, I was more disappointed and wishing that pool had the same "DNA of the game" as golf.  I find it intriguing that bad behavior isn't really tolerated in golf and respect for the players is held in high favor.  But in pool, let's face it, we don't have that.

We have players trying to cheat with breaks, sharking, etc trying to get an edge to win.  In other countries, this type of behavior is NOT tolerated at the pool table.  But for some reason, here in the US, it's almost norm to play pool in an atmosphere that is the opposite of calm and welcoming.

Is it too late for us to be like golf?

Yes,  I'm afraid so.  But, hey!  Wishful thinking!  Maybe the teenagers playing pool today will help our sport become as revered as golf.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Watching Good Strategy

I have mentioned before that I give lessons.  I don't show anyone how to hold a stick or adjust their bridge, I mostly work with players who are already a good player, they just could use help in areas such as strategy or decision making.

Most of the things I talk about are the things I learned from Phil Capelle's book, Play Your Best Pool, or things I've picked up from playing 8 ball competitively for so many years.  Okay, mostly his book, lol. 

One thing that came up at the OKC tournament in January that was quite cool was one of my "clients" (is that what you call someone you give lesson to?) was able to watch me play 8 ball.

Now, luckily I played well LMAO otherwise this blog post would be quite different, lol, but because I played good and smart and ALWAYS followed my own 8 ball advice that I give, this client was able to see my words and advice in action.

It's kinda tough to explain, but usually it's me talking to her about what to do or why I am going to do something as we spar with each other.  Her watching me play was a huge opportunity for her.  She sat there and watched me battle it out, safe after safe or run after run.  When I would do something, like play a safe instead of going for a shot, she would know EXACTLY why I did that.  And when I play safe, I ALWAYS move one of my balls to a better spot.  So, when I would play safe she knew EXACTLY why I might punt a solid back down table, for example.

It was a treat for us both, actually.  The match she watched went hill-hill and my opponent was a really good player.  We both were battling it out and playing well and smart.  So, this "client" was able to see my decision making and able to kinda see all my advice right in front of her.  She saw what I preached.  (I repeat certain things in 8 ball a lot when I give lessons, lol)

The one thing I would love to do with her next (if ever possible) is to watch a great 8ball match together and talk about the decisions of the players.  I think she will be surprised I can guess what they will do - why?  Because I'm psychic?  Not yet.  No, because all good 8 ball players know good strategy.  Even if we were get to watch a good 9ball match together, I would love to share the whys of certain shots.  One of my favorite places to sit when I used to watch tournaments in person was next to someone who liked to talk about why the players were choosing certain shots or playing certain balls.  HUGE learning opportunity.

This game isn't easy, folks!  Love learning and sharing the learning!

Monday, February 26, 2018

How Fast Players Stay in Stroke

Late last year I was chatting with a player who shared with me because he plays fast, he thinks that's why doesn't finish well in tournaments. He said a pro player confirmed with him that he's better at gambling because he's a rhythm player and can keep playing fast with no down time, like tournaments do.

I was actually really disappointed to hear this. I strongly believe that that pro player should never had put those doubts in his head. Why? Because even though he is a fast, rhythm player, he has been successful in many tournaments before. And now he's thinking when he doesn't finish well, "Yep, he was right. Just not prone to doing well in tournaments because of the long wait between matches."

I so much disagree!

And to prove my point, I reached out to another top player who shoots fast and is a rhythm player who has had a lot of success finishing very high consistently in tournaments. No reason for me to try and tell you my opinions about this - let's go directly to a successful player!

He's what I asked this Champion player:
I am going to write a blog topic about players who are rhythm players that shoot fast. I thought I'd ask you a couple of questions to help my piece. How do you keep your rhythm during a two day tournament with all the waiting around? Why do you think you are more successful than other rhythm players at being able to get back into a match after maybe being "cold"?  Other rhythm players are better at gambling than in tournaments, b/c they can keep playing fast with no "down time" between matches.

He replied matter-of-factly, "Well, during a 2 day tournament, I still like to hit balls while I'm not in a match. I will rent a table and throw 12 balls out and play rotation. Playing the 12 ball rotation will make 9-ball seem easier."

I like how he was specific - he doesn't just hit balls, he uses 12 balls to practice rotation.  

Then I asked him the more relevant question that affects a lot of people here in Texas:  What do you do when there are no extra tables to practice on?  Some pool rooms in Texas have 12 tables - and every single one of them are used for the tournament. That allows for no ability to keep in stroke.  So, what does he do then?

He shared, "If I come in cold because there are no tables, then you will see me on the sidelines just moving my arm back and forth to try to stay in the rhythm. Sometimes when I'm waiting you will see me make a bridge with my other hand to loosen them up.  So even though I haven't hit a ball, my bridge fingers and swinging arm are already loose.  Which in turn I think gives me an advantage."

He continued, "As far as gambling goes, I think I'm the same way in a tournament or not. Even playing one pocket I shoot fast."

He then pointed out the exact player I had chatted with as an example!  "Take XXX for example - he plays fast, great gambler, but an okay tournament player. Why?  I think when he plays in the tourney betting short races compared to gambling, he falters.  He plays the player in the tourney, but plays the table in gambling.  He needs to play the table in both."

He continued, "So his game allows just a little in tournaments. Maybe because of his opponent I don't know. But I know what I do in both is I play the table. I never pay attention to the player. My mind is constantly thinking "if he misses how a I going to run out" or "if I get ball in hand what am I going to do" when I hook him. That's another reason why I shoot fast - I know exactly how I am going to run out and where to put the cue ball.  So, my two main goals are to play the table and keep my swing arm loose."  

I like how this top player not only shared how he keeps in stroke being a rhythm player, but also how he keeps focus on the table which is most advantageous for him.  

Isn't it cool to be able to get into the mind of a Champion?!  :)

Thank you, Rick Stanley!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Feel of Family at Certain Pool Rooms

Sometimes we have no idea what people go through and how tough things are.  I think a lot of people (including myself) haven't truly sat down and thought about some of the things some players go through or are having to deal with when they are playing/gambling.

I recently interviewed someone for Billiard Buzz (for the March edition) and to read about how he tries to handle the pain in his only leg for as long as he can, makes you wince.  Knowing some people might be dealing with cancer and still trying to play (like I wrote about recently) or maybe struggling to keep their emotions in-check while they are going through a bad breakup or recent death.

We really don't know what people are going through sometimes and trying to deal with all that while trying to play the game they love??  How do players focus and play their best with so many life distractions?  Crazy.

One of my friends who gambles all the time prefers to only play at a certain pool room.  He brings his loving wife along and she loves to watch him play and she is his biggest fan. 

I've actually never even seen him play unless she's around.  What's interesting about this is his wife has Huntington's Disease (HD).  What is HD?  Well, HD is a brutal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. This means her body is failing and her movements aren't smooth. The best way to describe what it looks like is a person with HD can't really walk straight or talk normal.  However, if you know him and you know her you don't think anything about it.  They are two great people in love who are great friends to many of us.

He constantly professes on Facebook, "I'll play you at my home pool room." And he will play just about anyone.  The only catch is, you gotta go to him.  So, being the nosey person I am, I asked him why he only likes to play pool at that certain pool room.  But, I already knew the answer. I knew he was going to say it was a certain table he liked to gamble on or the smoking wasn't as bad there or that it was close to his house.  But the reason was actually really shocking to me.  I had no idea.  And I don't think many people have any idea.

He shared with me at this certain pool room he goes to most often, everyone there (patrons and people who work there), treat him and his wife as family.  He said, "They know us and they care about her.  It feels like family." 

And because his wife has HD, that's more important than I can even put into words in this blog.  While he's gambling, she can sometimes spill a drink or drop a cigarette.  His and her friends (the patrons and workers) will help her if something comes up he happens not to see first.  He is the one who normally helps her right away, but sometimes he might be down on a shot or someone might be in his line of sight of her when he's playing, and he may not see something as fast as someone else who is closer by. 

Other times, his wife is in the bathroom too long and he would need to find someone to go check on her.  At this pool room, when she's MIA for too long, the waitresses and female bartenders check on her even before he asks them to.  Everyone there cares for him and his wife and because of that, THAT's the reason he plays out of that pool room most often.  And that's also why there's an open invitation for anyone to come to him to gamble - because it's not comfortable for him and his wife at other places.

When he goes to other pool rooms, the caring atmosphere isn't there because they don't know them well. 

At other pool rooms (don't get upset, peeps), drunk people will actually make fun of her (thinking she's really drunk) or no one helps her right away if she needs help.  As you can imagine, anyone who makes fun of his wife is quite a distraction and it also hurts her feelings deeply. 

If you don't know either one of them, one does wonder what's going on with his wife. That is natural, right?  But sometimes people don't ask, and instead assume.  And sometimes these assumptions are rude and occur when the husband is trying to concentrate and gamble.

So, in order to be in a more peaceful, calm and caring atmosphere among good friends, he goes to this certain pool room where they both feel most comfortable and cared for.

I don't know why I'm so surprised, as I thought humans had more decency and were kinder to others.  But I guess when you get around a bunch of drunk young friends, people aren't thinking clearly and say stupid things not realizing the situation.  I know no one is deliberately mean, but sometimes hurtful, rude things are said.  And in the home room they go to, NO ONE would tolerate anyone treating her badly or making fun of her.  The friends would jump in before the husband could lol!

So I was completely wrong.  It's not the comfort of the atmosphere, the comfort of the pool table, or the closeness to home.  Not at all.  THE reason is because he and his wife are treated like family.  And that provides a sense of relief, support, and comfort for them.  Let's be honest.  He's already distracted and always on the look out to see if she's doing okay or needs anything.  But to be able to be in a setting where people help him by watching out for her, that allows him to be able to focus a little bit better knowing there are good, thoughtful people around that cherish her.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Cowboys Love Pool Too

My friends a Pro Billiard Service in the Dallas-area (but travel out of state, too, a lot) helped refelt and level a pool table this week.

They did this at the star practice facility, called the "Cowboy Club" for the Dallas Cowboys!  Pretty coolio, huh?

Photos or it didn't happen, right?  Here ya go:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Playing Even in a Tourney - Thanks to FargoRate

Catching up a bit from my trip to OKC for that tournament I played in January...

When we play in tournaments (whether open or handicapped) it's very natural to "judge" ourselves and our opponents ahead of every match.  We wonder things like:  who is the better player, will I have a chance, I should win, this will be tough, or this will be easy.

To be frank, it's is best if we DON'T ever think any of these thoughts and just focus on the game in front of us - that gives us the best chance to win!  But it is kinda normal to compare our skills to others.

The tournament in OKC was different than any other I had ever played in.  Basically, the race of every single match was not standard and instead depended on who you played.  And the race was established using an option on

It was a "575 and under tournament," which meant any player with a Fargo Rating of 575 and under could play.  And depending on who you played, your race was determined for you.

This is going to be tough to explain, so bear with me.

There is an option on entitled "Find a Fair Match."  See top right choice below:

From there, there are 3 categories: Hot, Medium and Mild. The Hot column is the race that should benefit the lower ranked player and the Mild column would benefit the higher ranked player, if two players would try and match up evenly:

In the OKC tournament, the race was to 7 on the winners side and 5 on the one-loss side. And we were to use the "hot" column to determine our races.

So, if I (524) was to play a player ranked 460, I would race to 7 and they would race to 5. (See below far left column and find the match up that begins with 7, since this tournament was a race to 7 on the winners side and I was Player One). If it was a one-loss side match, I would race to 5 and my opponent would race to 4 (again, below far left "hot" column and find the match up that begins with 5, since this tournament was a race to 5 on the one-loss side).

So, what was SUPER cool about this tournament was each player was essentially playing about even, no matter who you played because the race was stat-dependent.

So, let's set me up to play a higher-ranked player. If I was playing a player rated 570 and we were on the winner's side, I would race to 6 and they would race to 7. See hot column on the left and notice my opponent is Player Two, so we look for the "7" in the hot column for the second player, which would be 6-7 in this case:

It was actually a lot of fun and really cool to realize we were all playing about even in every single match. I don't mean we all played the same, I mean each race was established under the "Fair Match" option and that allowed for every person we played to be matched up pretty evenly in our matches.  I admit it was a different type of pressure - not one where one or the other is suppose to win, but who will win?

There was no guessing who played better and there was no pressure like there normally is when we all race to the same number. It was cool that each player raced to their own proper race against whoever it was we ran across based on our skill.

I liked it!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Confidence Booster - Danielson Series

Danielson reached out to me last week and was very happy to report that he was invited to play on a top team!

From going 0-2 for two years, then cashing in over half his tournaments in 2017, has propelled him into a position that top teams are seeking him out to join their team!

Jumping up 60 points in your Fargo Rating will do that to ya - be sought after!  And, this is such a really great confidence booster.  To know you are wanted because of your capabilities on the pool table is something all us players dream of.

So happy for him.

Also, in a tournament he played in in late January, he placed 9th-12th, which is better than his 0-2 he did in the same formatted tournament just back in Sept.  So, the hiccup he had from watching a certain player just two weeks before was quickly learned from and he went back to his previous pre-shot routine that was so successful for him.

Learn, peoples!  Reflecting and then learning go a long way.  Don't just go through the motions - reflect and learn.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Being Perceptive Can Hurt

I wrote the other day how I noticed a family come into the pool room.  After I took their photo a couple of hours later, my partner-in-crime, Tina, asked me, "How did you even notice them?"  I told her I saw them walk in the door and noticed that it might be three generations of pool players.

Her question led me to some thoughts.  Hold on for a ride, hahaha!

Her question reminded me how perceptive I am.  I can be in any room and I will notice every person that walks in, and what everyone is doing.

While this "attribute" may be great for being prepared for any situation that may suddenly arise in a room fill of people or emergency that may come up, it doesn't bode well for a competitor!

One of my friends, Dave Faver, told me once that he is so enthralled in his game and not distracted by things around him, he sometimes forgets to mark his score.  And yet here I am being "perceptive" of every person and movement while I'm trying to play pool lol.

This is why it's tough for me to focus well and be mentally strong throughout an entire tournament, and it's why I look at the ground a lot (read this favorite article about this tip HERE).

Sometimes certain attributes are not good for us competitors lol.  Wait, what was that? (as I look towards the window as a bird flew by)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Three Generations

Back in December when I was sparring with my friend Tina, I noticed two guys come into the pool room, and then a kid with them.  They got a rack of balls and went to the non-smoking side.  I saw a couple of pool cases they were carrying, too.

I wondered if they were Grandpa, Dad, and Son.

After Tina and I were finished, I told her to hold on and then I went up to them and asked if they were related.  And sure enough they were three generations!  I noticed Tina behind me, watching proudly as I took their photo.

Here they are, Dad, son, and Grandpa: three generations of pool players!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sick Pool Players Still Want to Play

A couple of different situations came up over the last year I wanted to share.

It's about people who are very sick, who still want to play pool and gamble, and how that affects them and others.

My friend Dave Faver, who had esophageal cancer last year and now has brain cancer, is a genuine pool player. By that I mean he has no day job, and makes his money either gambling or playing in tournaments. He's 62 and has been living like this for over 20 years or more. Because he's had cancer the last couple of years, his pool playing hasn't been as active as it used to be. However, he SO loves the game still, it helps him stay moving around, he gets to hang out with his friends, and he also needs the extra money. We are talking cheap action, even $5 a game one pocket or $10 a game one pocket.

However, he shared something I had never heard of or thought of. He said that it's super tough for him to get a game. He says that players feel bad taking his money, and if players lose to him, then they get mad about it lol.

He says people go out of their way to avoid him and they don't want to play him because he's sick. But what people don't realize is, he really loves the game and WANTS to play badly, but it's too tough to get even a $5 game anymore because players just don't want to play a guy who is so sick.

A situation came up in the Fall with a friend who was battling colon cancer. He was literally begging to play a certain player (I'll call him JM) and barking at him badly to play $1,000 sets all over Facebook. JM really didn't want to play the guy, not just because he was sick, but because he wasn't playing like he used to because he was sick. JM knew it wasn't a good game for the guy.

The guy was being backed, but that still didn't matter to JM, he didn't want to play him.

JM eventually gave in from all the ongoing egging. And what I found interesting was that some people were really upset at JM for playing him. Like, really upset. They thought he was taking advantage of the guy, but what they didn't know was in reality JM didn't want to play him at all.

JM adjusted in the two sets, but still won both sets.  I can imagine even though the guy was upset he lost, he was prolly still elated to gamble so high and be competitive!  Pool was his passion; he was glad to be put "back in the box."

These situations show how much players want to still gamble and play even if they are sick. Sometimes, pool is the thing they love the most, and they want to still gamble and play. And may not have long to do the thing they love.

So, while players are avoiding Dave Faver, look at it as someone who wants to play the game they love, not that you are taking advantage of a sick person.  Think about it - if you were sick, wouldn't you want to still do what you love for as long as you could?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Neighborly Love

I forgot to share my Christmas present from my neighbors.  Do they know me, or what?

Mmmmm, chocolate!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Topics Change as We Grow Up

I found it pretty comical when I was sitting with my girlfriends at the Oklahoma tournament, catching up and gabbing.  The reason I found it funny was because our topics were so different from when I first starting playing pool some 25 years ago.  

In my 20s, the girls would sit around and talk about the normal things at that age.  Maybe what makeup we like best, stupid drama shit, cute clothes, boys we liked, etc.

Fast forward 25 years and instead of finding out where you bought the cute shirt, now we talk about how much we saved buying the shirt.  Instead of sharing how bad our cramps are, we are sharing who is going through menopause already, lol.  Instead of wondering if the cute boy likes us, we're figuring out ways to like our self.  Instead of makeup tips to look make us better, we're talking about makeup tricks to help our wrinkles, lol.

I do love the more mature conversations for sure, and also because many of the more insightful convos lead to helpful tips swapping from one woman to another.

Ahhh, from girls to woman.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

RIP David Bond

It's the type of message you dread:  "Can you call me?"

On Saturday night I received such a message.  And I was told my friend David Bond had been found passed away that morning.

David Bond is my friend who ran American Billiard Radio and I was a monthly guest on his podcast show.

I then reached out to a couple of people who knew him, and it's always tough to give such bad news.  Hearing a mutual friend cry on the phone from the pain was heartbreaking.

David will be missed.  He had a sense of humor that was off the charts, really loved to gab, and had a passion for our sport.  He was working on a project that was taking a lot of time:  the Chicago Billiard Museum.  Turns out Chicago has a lot of billiard history than most of us never knew.

David's American Billiard Radio program will live on through the previous podcasts.  But, he will be sorely missed.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Imitation Can Hurt or Help - Danielson Series

Danielson had his first tournament of the year a week or so ago.  How did it go you ask?  Not very good, lol.

I like that sometimes he doesn't do well (hear me out first, lol!) because his tough losses make for great learning experiences for you all as well.

This one is quite interesting, as I'm sure you will agree and I hope you learn from it too.

I was watching the Breaking Bad marathon on Saturday night a couple of weekends ago (they are showing all 10 seasons on weekends the whole month of January and I've never seen the highly-recommended show before).  But, I also noticed that Danielson was on the live stream of the tournament he was playing in.  I opened it up on my phone and watched only a couple of games of his, as my mind was really on the meth-making story on tv lol.

What I noticed was Danielson wasn't playing like himself.  He was shooting much faster than he normally does, didn't seem engaged at all, and was missing shots he normally doesn't miss.  He just didn't seem himself.  I even joked between commercials, "Who is this person and what did you do with Danielson?"  lol

Later on the week, I asked him how his tourney went and he said it was a fiasco.  He didn't win one match and played badly.

And then I found out why:

He said he only did one thing different to prepare himself for the tourney:  "I watched a lot of pool matches the week before and I think I might have unconsciously tried putting things into my routine."

I shared I thought he didn't play the same - shot too fast for sure.  He said, "Yea, I didn't play my normal pace and caught myself shooting shots differently than I normally would."

Although this was a tough weekend for him, he (and you all!) get to learn from it.

Here's the gist:  It's actually really helpful to watch great pool matches, but you need to be careful what you see and pick up.  Mostly watch the position play and outs.  If you accidentally watch the player too much, you will start to mimic their habits.  And let's face it, not all habits are good lol.

When I used to watch my friend June Hager Walter a lot in the 1990s, I noticed I'd all of a sudden be walking around the table like her and gained her mannerisms.  And of course, the top players I watched most often on the Omega Tour all those Sundays had nice, smooth strokes; nothing rushed and nothing fast. That's who/what I was mimicking the last several years and that's why my game soared.

Sure, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes, but only if it's positive. 

I have no idea who Danielson watched, but I can already tell you the player shot fast.  Some of us can be that fast shooter, but if we are the type of player that takes our time (like Danielson) and that works well for us (works REALLY well for me), then accidentally mimicking a fast shooter can be disastrous for our game.

Good luck, peeps!  Focus on the game, not the player.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

What I Learned from 2017 Interviews

One thing I found really intriguing and exciting was a fellow blogger asked me, "What did you learn?" after I shared how much I enjoyed my interviews last year.

It was such a great question, that even though I didn't answer him, lol, it gave me the idea to write about what I learned from EACH interview I conducted last year for my column in Billiard Buzz (you can find all the interviews in one place here).

Cool question, right?

Now, realize these are very personal learning experiences and most do not have anything to do with playing pool.  But it was a profound question that I loved so much, because I really did learn a lot, and so wanted to share.  I'll even share a few quotes from the pieces, some fave answers:

First up in 2017 was my interview with Tony Sulsar.  What I learned from him was how important his Dad was to his game even to this very day, and that he misses his Dad deeply, just like we all miss our parents who have passed.  There are people like me who talk about the loss, and people like Tony who don't talk about it, but feel it.

Next up was Robley Fontenot.  I had wanted to interview him for years, and what I learned from him was no matter your conditions, you always press forward and prevail with all your might.  Don't give up and strive.

Rachel Hurst was the April interviewee and she also had been on my list to interview for years and she did NOT disappoint.  I so love her choice of words and outlook on life and the way she describes things.  Her life is truly amazing from hardship to many radical changes in her careers.  What I learned from her interview was it's okay for me to be an introvert, and to make your home more comfy because of that.  She also has a great perspective about image that I loved and hope you all read how she learned the hard way about image in a woman's body.
"My physical recovery was about a year and it consisted of several surgeries to try to reconstruct my face and scalp from the damage the lathe had caused.  A couple of non-physical symptoms still linger with me 20 years later:  some random vertigo and dizziness, and a somewhat spotty memory. 
The accident had the opposite effect on me, actually.  I looked so hideous and horrible during the recovery period that I lost a lot of the vanity that was actually the cause of the accident in the first place.  I was lucky enough to have people who loved me in spite of the fact that I looked like a cartoon character… so from then on I became far less concerned with whether or not people thought I was physically attractive in general. Women, in particular, struggle with the idea that we’re supposed to be pretty at all times – and it’s not only unrealistic, but it can also be incredibly painful and limiting.  To be unburdened inside in my mid-20s of this idea that I had to look good was a revelation.  Ultimately, that was an enormous gift."
Fred Pankey was showcased in the May issue and he is a 96-year-old pool player!  Can you imagine growing up in The Depression?  It was so cool to hear him talk about how he grew up in that era and all that he's accomplished in his long life.  What I learned from him is how important friends are as you age.
I don’t have any friends my age or in their 90s like me.  My friends in the pool room are getting older, too (he laughs), but, I associate with them and we’ve been friends for 20 or more years. “ 
Next up was custom cue maker Jake Hulsey.  A mentor to many people, my take-away from my interview with Jake was how important it is to have a relationship with your spiritual higher power.  That relationship may even be a bad one, but as long as you have one is what is important.
You’ve had issues with substance abuse and a stint or two in rehab in your lower 20s.  What was your take away from that experience?  
"Very specifically the principles of Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Love, Justice, Perseverance, Spirituality, and Selfless-ness.  People have likely heard of the 12 Steps at some point in their life while discussing addiction.  These steps are often discounted or disregarded either because they are not understood or require too much work.  The secret that people don’t get is that each one of the steps has a spiritual (biblical) principal behind it.  Once you GET that principle you will begin to be okay with living life on life’s terms.  Another huge roadblock for me was that I was mad at God and just assumed that I would eternally be cursed for such.  As it turns out, God already knew I was mad and was happy I could finally be honest about it.   At the end of the day, the same problem exists (me).  The difference now is that I’m capable of dealing with situations without blaming others or using something to change the way I feel."

Mike Panozzo was in the July issue - first industry interviewee.  He better feel special!  haha.  He's actually a really good friend to me and gives me great advice (prolly has no idea) and has been a great mentor to me.  What I learned from him from the interview was to enjoy every single day and surround yourself with people worth sharing you passions and enjoyment with.  His perspective about the pool industry was also interesting - and he is correct:  Because the pool industry is so small and not mainstream, pro pool players are reachable.  If pool was mainstream, we wouldn't have the accessibility we have now to them.

Aimee Peterson was next.  What I learned from her was there are so many things a lot of us are going through that we have no idea about.  We have health problems or other pains in life and hardly anyone knows.  And we go through life struggling, but also surviving.  To read Aimee's story about all her health issues is truly eye opening how she can even play the game we love (there's your reason).
"The only comfort I’ve been able to find from the accident was that I must have had a grand purpose that day to save the lives of the two people in the Toyota truck.  I have absolutely no doubt in my mind, that had I not taken the brunt of the initial impact, they both may have been killed in the head on collision.  I also think I got a bit lucky too.  When I was pushed into the intersection, I wasn’t put into the path of the oncoming traffic where I could’ve easily been hit again head on. "
Dennis Hatch was the first professional I interviewed and he didn't disappoint.  I think the thing that surprised me the most was playing pool was chosen for him because of his Dad seeing his natural talent for it. 
"Pool was essentially chosen FOR me as it was what my father (Greg Hatch) wanted most as I was growing up and growing into a career choice. I had a natural talent and he refined it. He loved the game and he molded me to be the best."
Mike Page, the co-creator of Fargo Rate was the October interviewee.  If I am to be honest, I learned how to better my interviews by interviewing him!  I gave him the questions and he rearranged everything, adjusted the questions and turned the piece into a masterpiece.  I could easily see his PhD teaching skills come into place, lol.  I wasn't hurt with him changing things up so much, instead I paid attention to how he asked the questions better.  I was impressed with his career changes in life as well, btw, but it was his ability to really change the interview into a better piece was what I cherished.

Melanie Archer was next and I was so honored to give her a voice.  Most spouses of pool players are not really considered for interviews.  What I learned from her is there are ways to find time to being active in what you want to do.  A lot of us sit around thinking about things we would like to do or are maybe interested in doing - she gets up and does it; does it all!  I also like how she uses social media to share positive things, but also points out we need to put technology down to enjoy our surroundings, the outdoors and traveling.  I also loved this:
Your Mom (who passed in 2005) has a big influence on your life to this day.  Do you have a favorite quote from her you live by?
"“Be True to Thine Own self.”  When I was younger, I really didn’t understand it.  Now that I am older, I totally get it.  It means, be true to you and what you believe.  Don’t conform to this world or what others want you to be.  You were made just the way GOD made you to be.  So be it!  But always continue to grow and become a better version of yourself.  You are the only one who has control over this. "
Don and Mary Akerlow were the final month of the year and I was happy to get to know them better.  Mary is fighting cancer with Don and their love for each other shines through in the piece.  What I learned was how important friends and support on FaceBook are to them during this process.  Also, to get several opinions (not just 1 or 2) and ask many, many questions when fighting cancer.

I enjoyed this so much I will do this again next year for all the 2018 interviews!  Thank you to my friend Dane for asking me the great question to begin with, "Melinda ,what did you learn?"

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ameritrade Has a Place in My Heart

I have pointed out several commercials that has billiards as a theme or even just a pool table in the background.  I figure anytime pool is in a commercial is good for business, right?

Well, Ameritrade has some recent commercials talking about the future, options, investment services and trading support.  They have several commercials out there right now and they all show an Ameritrade guy talking to people in a "Green Room."  This Green Room happens to be, well, yes, green, lol, but also has a pool table in it.  In every commercial (about 5 of them) you can see the pool table in the background, or the Ameritrade guy is playing pool with a potential client, or another guy is playing pool while he talks to the client.

What I find really cool is Ameritrade sees also that pool is not just a game played in a smoke-filled, seedy bar.  But a game among smart investors, and a game that everyone loves.  I guess my point is, they are shining a positive light on pool.  And I love it!

Here is one of their commercials:

Friday, January 19, 2018

RIP Lucille Donahue

One of my dear friends and mentor passed away in late December - Lucille Donahue.  I can't begin to express how impactful this woman was to me.  Not even remotely begin to express it.

I found an interview conducted by author Carl Miller of Lucille during one of the Ladies Tour stops in 2007.  (back then, the Ladies Tour was the "Hunter Classics Tour").

I'm going to paste his interview right here, so you can find out more about Lucille.  She was an amazing woman full of life and such a contagious, positive attitude.  And a laugh so joyful... you would never forget!

RIP my Dear Friend.

No Rocking Chair for this Grandmother

The one-hour drive up the freeway from Galveston Bay to North Houston is tiring on this early Saturday morning, but Lucille Donahue perks up the moment she steps through the front door at Bogies Billiards and Games.  For the past two years, a severe lung infection has limited Lucille’s appearances on the Hunter Classics Amateur Women’s Tour.  Now, as she joins the other board members and players at the registration table, she enjoys the familiar banter.  She’s back in her element, appreciative of the recent improvement in her health and excited by the opportunity to play in another pool tournament.   

Concurrent with this stop on the Hunter Classics Tour, Bogies is hosting a benefit for Anne Mayes, a Hunter Classics Tour member and respected custom cue maker.  Anne is battling cancer.  Throughout the weekend, WPBA touring professional, Kim White, will conduct a benefit in Anne’s behalf, which will include an hourly raffle.  Lucille asks for roll of raffle tickets, and within minutes of her arrival, she’s sold $100 worth. 

Fellow Hunter board member Melinda Bailey says with a smile, “The Hunter Classics Tour is alive because of Lucille.  She’s the nucleus.”


Lucille arrived on the competitive pool scene relatively late in life, and by unusual circumstance.  She was in her late forties, and owner of a real estate company, when one evening she agreed to meet a broker at a bar he frequented.  Lucille had never played pool, but as their business meeting concluded, a mixed-doubles tournament was about to begin.  Lucille got talked into playing, and before the evening was over, she discovered she had a natural talent and an affinity for the game. 

Later that year, two local players, Barney Garza and Ole Olsen, invited Lucille to accompany them to a professional tournament at Top Cats Billiards in San Marcos, Texas.  The field of Texas women professionals included: Vivian Villarreal (“The Texas Tornado”), Belinda Calhoun (“The Texas Belle”), etc.  The skills of these women both impressed and inspired Lucille, and she became hooked on the game and the lore. 

Lucille joined the Hunter Classics Amateur Women’s Tour twelve years ago, and for the past eight years she’s served as a board member.  She’s proud to be involved with the largest and longest-running regional women’s tour.  As a board member, her personal goal is to continue to attract talented women players, so the Hunter Classics Tour will not only remain strong, but continue to grow.

During the twenty years that Lucille has now played pool, she’s also been a member of several league teams that have competed throughout the Galveston Bay Area.  She particularly enjoys playing in the annual BCA National 9-Ball Championships in Las Vegas.  Making Las Vegas even more inviting is the fact that her daughter, Linda, and granddaughter, Allie Rae, live there.  Her other daughter, Lori, and grandsons, Trevor and Keaton, live in the Galveston Bay Area.  When not playing pool, Lucille often turns to her other favorite bay area pastime: fishing.

Despite her late introduction to competitive pool, and never having taken lessons, Lucille has developed a respected game.  Early on, she was just a shot maker, but as she gained in experience, she added defensive skills.  She admits, though, “I don’t practice as much as I should.  Mainly, I’ve just learned from playing.”

As the Saturday afternoon at Bogies progresses, Lucille loses her first match, then wins a match, but then loses again and is eliminated from the championship tournament.  However, since health problems have limited her appearances during the past two years, she’s pleased with her performance, particularly at having won three games in the match she lost to perennial Hunter champion, Leslie Anne Rogers.

On Sunday, as the tournament winds down, Kim White announces that raffles, auctions, and a Saturday night open tournament have raised nearly $5,000 for Anne Mayes.  No one is more pleased than Lucille and the other members of the Hunter Classics Tour.

Despite losing her two matches in the second-chance tournament, Lucille remains as enthusiastic as ever.  “I miss it a lot when I can’t play,” she says, “but life sometimes throws curves.  I love pool, and it’s such a pleasure to be part of the Hunter Classics Tour and to be associated with all these talented young women.”

The next Hunter Classics Tour stop will be at Legend’s Billiards in the Galveston Bay Area.  Lucille plans to play in that event.  Billy, her husband of 48 years, and their grandsons will be among the fans watching.